In amidst other treasures of my childhood that I found filed in an old beach-combed dairy crate were some handwritten, hand-stapled school newspapers. Our school had seven rooms, but it was conducted in the spirit of a one room school. It had two teachers, and a teacher’s aid–who happened to be my grandmother. She had so many grandchildren in school that even the kids unrelated to her, and the teachers, wound up calling her “Grandma.” (Actually, we called her “Grambo,” but that’s another story….) The school catered to all grades with kids ranging in age from five to eighteen.
The “Big Kids” had their classes mostly upstairs, while the “Little Kids” did their schooling downstairs. We even had a Big Kids’ upper play deck and the Little Kids’ lower play deck. There were frequent rumblings of rebellion from the Lower Deck, accusing the Upper Deck of teacher favoritism, but in the end we all pulled together: after all, we all went to school together and wrote the newspaper together.
I found two charming news articles by my little brothers Robin and Chris (grades 3 and 1 respectively) and here they are.
Robin’s news report:
Robin showed the musicians around the chuck. –I showed the musicians around the chuck. We went to the Back chuck. Pete told me to show the musicians around. We went by the store. I was going to show them around the whole chuck. They bought me some gum. Fritz did not git to go because he got sick. they took a spike out of the chuck. thank you.
by Robin Neilson
THE END by Robin Neilson
“The Musicians” in this concise exclusive were two artists, among others, that the State arranged to visit outlying bush schools to make sure the kids were exposed to culture through what was called The Artist In Residence Program. “The chuck” is the local nickname for the village, and the “Back chuck” is a tidal lagoon behind the main harbor. “The store” had only one room, with at least one of its freezer’s in a shed outside, right behind the enormous fuel drum that my Uncle Lance had been commissioned to paint as a giant beer can.”Pete” was the teacher, and Fritz was the schoolmate closest in age to Robin. I have absolutely no idea what the “spike” was that they took out of the chuck, but I’m intrigued.
Chris’ news report:
Gary helped make the playdeck and he cut the red cedar for the play deck. and Gary brought the lumber in the skiff. Steve Peavey and Dean Carmine hauled the lumber up to the deck. Chris
Gary is my dad’s name and he was the foremost carpenter/electrician/handyman around; plus he had the only sawmill in the area, a one-man mobile sawmill that provided for the entire community and outlying area’s lumber needs. The lumber he milled built our house (and the floathouse I built that I’m currently living in) and pretty much every new house around, in addition to any repairs that needed doing. Steve Peavey is one of the most well-known fishermen in SE Alaska and a witty raconteur of stories about old and new Alaska. Dean Carmine is the father of the “Fritz” in Robin’s story.
My brothers, Robin (upper left) and Chris, playing in the burned out, rusting ruins of the old cannery where we grew up. Our cat, Creosote Bill (upper right), is overseeing their play. We skiffed to the nearby village to go to school and write articles for the only newspaper in the area.